In this new series, we ask students in these socially distanced, isolating times to think back to a happier time when they were crammed in a venue, having warm liquid thrown over them they hoped was a cheap pint, and losing their voice the next day after scream-singing along to lyrics. It was a simpler time, when the worst thing that could happen was someone over six feet tall blocked your view of the stage. This is Memories of a Gig.
Erin Graham shares memories of Kasabian’s 2017 TRNSMT set.
Let me begin by paying homage to the birth mother of TRNSMT festival: T in the Park. May she rest in peace. Although I suppose, the entire gig scene is somewhat resting in peace right now (alongside our head-banging, adrenaline-seeking souls). The gig I want to recount for you all is my experience at TRNSMT 2017 in Glasgow Green. Specifically, the headliner that year, Kasabian. This was my first big festival and my second time seeing Kasabian live. In typical festival fashion, I had peed in the disgusting portable toilets for the last time at 5pm and we slowly inched our way forward, hour by hour, act by act, to the metal barrier at the front of the stage – waiting for the main event. It may also be of note to include that I am 5’5”, so this was a rather big achievement for me: a clear view of the stage. There were a few events that transpired that truly made this my favourite gig experience to date. Oh, if only I knew.
There we are, drunkenly chatting to two middle-aged women about how hot Serg is (objectifying looks in 2020, I know, I’m sorry) and the lights go down. I grip my friends’ hand so tight, as we can’t see a thing and the momentum builds, how bloody exciting. One strum of a guitar and the crush starts. We are propelled forward by another 12,000 bodies wanting to get as physically close to Kasabian as they could, to say they’d been stage-front at Kasabian in Glasgow Green – a serious flex. I know everyone brags that they “scream” the lyrics, but Jesus Christ were we screaming the lyrics. Moments like this are honestly what I love about a gig; the sense of complete community. Every single person in this crowd is significant. The power of a “HWFG” chant in Scotland is unmatched – everyone and their granny screaming profanity to hype up the artist. My English boyfriend was pretty traumatised at this event the following year at TRNSMT, but for me, it’s absolutely beautiful. Belting along Serge screams “GLASGOW, YOU ARE THE BEST FOOKIN’ CROWD WE’VE EVER ‘AD”. This is all it took to make the intoxicated crowd scream back their appreciation louder than before. Kasabian are the type of high-energy band that spans the entire stage and get every single person involved with their lyrics. Call me cliche, but I get really emotional at gigs like this – that’s really what they are for: bringing people together who would never be in the same room in another world.
The atmosphere really changed about 75% of the way through; we were trying our hardest to enjoy the music and be present, but we were being quite literally “moshed” across the grass, American football style. A technicolour fountain of beer, most likely piss, and water flying overhead… ah, gig life, I miss you. My friend and I were getting pretty anxious at this stage and it was beginning to overpower our enjoyment. Our ribs were pressed directly against the steel barrier as the crowd became denser and denser. We had made it to Kasabian’s iconic encore song… “YA KNOW WHAT IT IS DON’T YA???” Serg screams. The familiar momentum building, pace-like guitar strums of Fire echo through the Green. In live form the song can last up to eight minutes. Did we honestly have that left in us or were we going to get hauled over the barrier by the stewards, shamefully, to safety?
This is where our middle-aged guardian angels appeared – they had already told us tales of how they had attended gigs for years, going and leaving together every time. Gig veterans. When the chorus dropped and the crowd got really rowdy, we were cocooned by our new friends, them behind us taking (some) of the hit from everyone else surging forward, giving us time to breathe before the next chorus. We felt protected by people we had never met, and it was the most grateful I had ever been for drunk strangers. They really did save us from being seriously bruised the next day and received absolutely nothing in return. It was a gig I will never forget in my entire life for all of these reasons. The sad part is, I haven’t seen Kasabian or those beautiful ladies since. Walking out from a gig still screaming the lyrics with everyone heading for the train is beautiful sadness. Everyone knows it’s over, but you can’t quite accept it. Not to mention the 20 Snapchats and messages I had from friends and family to say they seen me singing my heart out and being squished to bits for a whole two seconds on BBC Scotland – I know everyone gets on TV at festivals, but this was what solidified it as my favourite gig. A tiny two-second memory of me having the time of my life, clueless I was being filmed, completely at one with the music. Quite a flex (along with the other 10,000 people on camera with me).
The sense of community at gigs is something that fills my heart with happiness. No one knows who you are, but you’re there for a shared reason, a mutual love, voices coming together, in a crowd of thousands.
I have been to gigs across the UK but there is nothing like a Glasgow gig and I’ll put my life on that. People Make Glasgow.
It’s important to note that I look back on this gig, or Kasabian, with a slightly tainted view in 2020. Former lead singer Tom Meighan has been charged with domestic assault this year and subsequently kicked out of Kasabian by the other members, who were disgusted at his actions, and his silence. Too often in the music industry, and in society, people in power mask their crimes with their wealth – I really feel almost naive looking back at how clueless everyone at the gig was – and even his bandmates until late 2020. It’s hard for this to be my favourite gig with it now being branded with a horrible man’s actions at the forefront. Many say we can’t swear-off Kasabian for actions that were the fault of one person – but that memory will always now be attached to my gig memory. Violence is never, ever acceptable and I salute Kasabian for kicking him out as soon as they could.